Spring Break Boot Camp Highs and Lows

The kids headed back to school after a week of Spring Break and I reflected on the past week. Due to a few unforeseen events, boot camp did not go exactly as planned, but I think they learned a few new things that will go a long way in life.

The week began with the task of rinsing the dishes and getting them into the dishwasher. The 6-year-old girl happily helped out, without complaining, as is her nature. The 8-year-old boy protested and said we were treating him like a slave. Yes, he is quite dramatic at times. I don’t see a future on stage, but with his quick argumentative skills, perhaps a defense lawyer or an activist. After each meal, I gently reminded him to please help out. It got easier for everyone within earshot as the week progressed.

Vacuuming the rugs was by far the easiest task. They argued over who would get to vacuüm first. They did  excellent work. Next time we’ll cover the art of the attachments.

Folding clothes and putting them away was a chance for the 6-year-old to show off her attention to details as well as her sense of neatness and order. She has willingly helped with this task in the past, so it is fair to say that she had an advantage over her brother. It was extremely difficult for him to attempt this chore, but mostly in the sense of mind over matter. I know I would have lacked  the patience  had this been a school day. Once again he began to complain before even attempting to fold one single item. He did not even want to learn step by step. Well, boot camp is not about letting them off easy. It is about working to accomplish the task, no matter how long it takes. Although I did not set the timer, the boy took a looooooooong time just to try to fold a pair of pants. Protests, refusals and finally tears. I offered rest time, calm down time, deep breath time, all the while encouraging him and reminding him I was here to help, even with those tricky European shirt folding techniques (um, I’m not explaining.) Eventually we got through most of his clothes. Eventually it did get easier for him the more he practiced. Eventually he realized that it was not that hard and that I was not such a mean mama.

We did not get the opportunity to work on our sewing skills or food prep skills. I’m not too worried, as my son said he wanted deviled eggs the other day and did not balk when I suggested he help me make them later in the week.  I think that I can try to incorporate these activities on alternating weekends, if I plan ahead. We did work on paper mache for a class project, which involved mixing and measuring ingredients.

As my cousin said over the weekend about his teenage son: “I don’t think he will ever do hard labor in his professional life, but I expect him to learn how to do it at home.” And that is just it. These skills will come in handy and we have to start at home, one task at a time.

This past week made me realize how capable my children are of achieving tasks, if they have the right amount of time, support and patience. I hope they can continue with the new skills they learned and pick up some new ones in the near future before things go topsy-turvy for them during Summer Boot Camp.

Spring Break Boot Camp

Children volunteering

Image via Wikipedia

Scattered clothes, enough stray socks to start a soccer team, books in every possible resting place, resembling the children’s section of the library. And of course complaints, complaints, complaints. “I don’t want to help out!”

Our family is not doing anything for the week of Spring Break. Instead, “Life Skills Boot Camp” will be visiting our house. Each day my children will learn a new skill or two that I hope they can practice and become good at over time. I’ve found that summer intercessions and short breaks during the year are a perfect time to teach my 6 and 8 year olds how to do something new.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, it’s Spring Break, just let  them wake up late, lounge around and be free of responsibilities. While they will have some fun going to the movies, the museum and pursuing other things of their choice, they will also learn new lifelong skills. I could wait until summer, but they have grown a bit lazy of late and could use a jump-start in the right direction. The three main obstacles absent this week are: the routine of getting out the door on time for school, homework and after school activities. These are the three things that sabotage them and the time it takes to learn new skills and chores, or just maintaining the chores they already know how to do.

This matters to me. I have noticed that  parenting is different. Children are not allowed to do many things due to the excuse of safety. Or, it is faster and easier for the parent  to complete a task. While I have always encouraged mine to do things for themselves, other parents undermine my work when they choose to do what  their children are very capable of. I can’t tell you how many children I have seen who do not know how to: carry their own back pack, prepare a simple breakfast or snack, brush their own teeth, dress themselves, put on their own shoes, clear their dishes from the table and GASP! feed themselves. Yes, I know there are exceptions. Every parent makes exceptions for their child at times. Exceptions are not for every day, though.

I want my children to feel confident and be  self-sufficient. I want them to acquire traits that will be useful in life. When it is time for them to attend college and live on their own, I hope that they are well equipped to take care of their basic needs. I don’t want my children to pour bleach on the stains of their white shirts directly from the bottle. Nor do I want them to take their shirt to the dry cleaner to get a button sewn on. I don’t want their garbage overflowing like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. I would like them to know how to  prepare more than microwave popcorn, a pizza or instant noodles in the kitchen. Well, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about the last one with my six-year-old. A few weeks ago she made homemade blueberry pancakes and cooked them on a griddle all by herself. I stood next to her and discussed stove safety, then offered pancake flipping tips.

What’s on my agenda, you ask? As of now, I plan to help them with the following:

  • develop the habit of rinsing and putting dishes into the dishwasher
  • finish sewing the small pillows they began a few weeks ago
  • show them how to prepare a fruit or vegetable salad
  • demonstrate how to fold some of their clothes AND show them how to put them away
  • vacuum the rugs
What do you think? Is this a good way for children to spend their time?